In an age of people obsessed with Instagramming their meals and body positivity, the zine Food& encourages its readers to think about their relationship with food in a more playful, experimental way.
For Spanish artist and data-analyst Asís Ybarra, a trip to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan with his friend Eduardo Ecker turned out to be the inspiration for his next creative venture. “We were just walking around and we saw some people eating sushi while looking at fish in the tanks,” Ybarra explains, laughing at the irony. “It was really absurd, and somehow frightening. They looked so naive and unaware of the paradox. We were fascinated by this, and as a result we thought it would be interesting to start a magazine that explored our relationship with food.” And so, Food& was born.
Realizing that food media was a saturated area, Ybarra decided that the magazine needed to have a more experimental approach to the topic. “Most food magazines are about fancy dishes, restaurants, and lifestyle. We felt that we should go beyond that and create a magazine exploring our intrinsic relationship with what we put in our mouths in an unusual and playful way,” he explains.
After releasing Issue #0 in 2016, which explored the connection between food and bathrooms, the magazine preceded to work through the endless possibilities of weird and wonderful topics that you can relate to food. “We rely on intuition a lot of the time,” says Fabian Wohlfart, who has been an art director for Food& since Issue #1. But there is also an element of the deciding process that considers how the topics will follow on from each other. “In Issue #3, we looked at nuclear war, which was a very serious topic,” explains Ybarra. “So after that we wanted to do something a little bit more lighthearted and absurd to have some opposition.”
Aside from the core team, Food& also works with a diverse community of international artists, whose submissions form the backbone of the magazine’s content. Issuing open calls at the beginning of each issue’s creation period, Food& source their content from all over the world, with contributors hailing from Germany, Spain, Norway, South Korea, China, Brazil, U.S.A and Iran to name a few countries. “There’s only one rule, which is to connect the theme with food in some way,” says Ybarra. “We try to encourage people not to fall into obvious stereotypes, which can be really difficult.”
Whilst working with an international community of contributors is enjoyable and makes for a diverse magazine, it also means that the Berlin team sometimes knows very little about the artists behind the work they are printing. For instance, Norweigan creators Leopold and Ulrich, who have regularly contributed absurd comic strips featuring characters made out of ingredients from french fries to fruit, remain largely anonymous to the editorial team. “We’d love to meet them. We don’t know if they’re 12 or 50 years old,” says Ybarra, lamenting that they have lost contact with them since Food& Nuclear War.
“With a magazine you can get fifteen minutes off and be in a different world.”
Surprisingly for a food magazine, Food& has only featured one recipe to date. “In Food& Sports we had some absurd recipes for people who wanted to build up muscle,” says Wohlfart. Leafing through the issue, he points out profiles of people they found on YouTube, reciting the ingredients for a particularly revolting sounding shake. The lack of recipes is something Food& is looking to change. “We’ve discussed including instructions on how to burn things or how to mess up a meal,” says Ybarra. “We’ve also been speaking with German-Chilean chef Hans Moeller Rojas (who has previously worked at Berlin’s Panama Restaurant) who’s really keen on collaborating with us. It would be amazing to have someone with so much gastronomic experience to help us.”
With exciting collaborations on the horizon, the magazine getting thicker by the issue, and even an accompanying podcast series, Food& has come a long way since they were warned by their friends that starting a print magazine was too risky. “Everyone told us that we should start with a blog and build up an audience,” says Ybarra. “But I had no interest in that at all.” Ybarra also explains that working in print allows you to play with your readers. “We do a lot of easter eggs,” he says, cheekily pointing out an image of a pair of sneakers where they changed the logo from Asics to Asìs. “Nobody noticed, not even the artist!” adds Wohlfart, who also strongly opposes the idea that Food& could have started as a digital publication. One reason is that he appreciates the nostalgic value of collecting printed media. “You even get stickers with it,” he says, enthusiastically displaying Food&’s sticker collection designed by Barcelona-based illustrator Kiki Ljung. The other is that he doesn’t like reading on screens. “On a screen, you can get distracted by other apps and emails popping up every five seconds. Whereas with a magazine you can get 15 minutes off and be in a different world.”
Past issues of Food&
Food& is a Berlin-based magazine that displays artwork from an international pool of collaborators. Exploring a different topic each issue, the magazine aims to present unusual encounters with food that make us reconsider our relationship with what we put in our mouths. Their next issue Food& Losers will be released this summer. To find out more, visit Food& ’s website or follow them on Instagram.
At FvF we regularly portray inspiring founders behind independent publications that show why print matters. If you want to find out more, read about the founding editor of Azeema, a magazine standing up for women of color, or have a browse in our archive.
Text: Emily May